Abundance Estimation

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Underpinning many aspects of the research and conservation of marine mammal populations is knowledge of how many are actually out there. There are a variety of techniques available to researchers and management agencies for estimating the abundance of marine mammal populations.

MUCRU are employing several of these techniques, including: (i) navigating predetermined line transects through particular study sites on small research boats in order to locate marine mammals and conduct individual photographic identification, then using this data in mark-recapture analyses; (ii) conducting shore-based observations with the use of theodolites in order to estimate the number of migrating whales; (iii) using ‘traditional’ aerial surveys from small planes, as well as developing the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, for larger scale estimations of dugong, whale and dolphin population abundance.


Maximising the utility of these data sets, we are also striving to develop and improve the quantitative techniques for estimating marine mammal population abundance. As per MUCRU’s core mission, our ultimate aim is to provide a sound basis for the informed conservation and management of marine mammal populations.

MUCRU projects that aim to estimate abundance include:

Relevant lab publications:

  • Brown , A.M., Bejder, L., Pollock, K.H. and Allen, S.J. 2016. Site-specific assessments of the abundance of three inshore dolphin species to inform conservation and management. Frontiers in Marine Science 3:4. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00004
  • Sprogis, K., Pollock, K.H., Raudino, H.R., Allen, S.J., Kopps, A.M., Manlik, O., Tyne, J.A. and Bejder, L. 2016. Sex-specific patterns in abundance, temporary emigration and survival of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in coastal and estuarine waters. Frontiers in Marine Science 3:12. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00012
  • Christiansen, F., Bertulli, C.G., Rasmussen, M. & Lusseau, D. (2015). Estimating cumulative exposure of wildlife to non-lethal disturbance using spatially explicit capture-recapture models. The Journal of Wildlife Management 79:311-324.
  • Tyne, J., Pollock, K.H., Johnston, D. and Bejder, L. (2014). Abundance and survival rates of the Hawai’i Island associated spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) stock. PLoS ONE 9:e86132. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086132
  • Hodgson, A., Kelly, N., Peel, D. (2013). Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Surveying Marine Fauna: A Dugong Case Study. PLoS ONE 8:e79556. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079556
  • Smith, H.C., Pollock, K.H., Waples, K., Bradley, S. and Bejder, L. (2013). Use of the Robust Design to estimate abundance and demographic parameters for a coastal bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) population. PLoS One 8:e76574. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076574
  • Nicholson, K., Bejder, L., Allen, S., Krützen, K. and Pollock, K. (2012). Abundance, survival and temporary emigration of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) off Useless Loop in the western gulf of Shark Bay, Western Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 63:1059-1068.
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